Chinh Pham (L) and Andrew (AJ) Tibbetts (R), Greenberg Traurig
6 March 2024Future of IPChinh Pham and Andrew (AJ) Tibbetts, Greenberg Traurig.

5 emerging tech trends shaping IP

Augmented reality ‘on steroids’, greener EVs, and cybersecurity are some of the emerging tech areas that will test rights owners’ ability to adapt, say Chinh Pham and Andrew (AJ) Tibbetts of Greenberg Traurig.

Emerging technologies continue to reshape industries and societies, introducing unprecedented advancements that are changing the way we work and live. At the same time, some of those groundbreaking technologies, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI), are presenting new challenges to traditional intellectual property (IP) frameworks.

As some technologies advance faster than the law, the stakes become higher for policymakers and IP practitioners alike. Striking a balance between encouraging innovation and ensuring access to and protections for essential technologies is more complicated than ever.

IP professionals must understand, monitor, and address these challenges in order to develop strategies to protect existing innovations.

They also need to embrace the future to help pioneer new strategies that adapt to the ever-shifting tech landscape.

In this article, we examine five of today’s most prolific technology trends and discuss their respective impact on IP strategy and planning.

1. Increased adoption of generative AI and push to minimise algorithmic biases

Generative AI took center stage in 2023 and the popularity of this technology will continue to grow. The importance behind the art of crafting nuanced and effective prompts will heighten, as there will be greater adoption across a wider variety of industries.

There will likely be advancements in algorithms, increasing accessibility through more user-friendly platforms. These can lead to an increased focus on minimising algorithmic biases and the establishment of guardrails governing AI policies. Of course, a keen awareness of the ethical considerations and policy frameworks will help guide generative AI’s responsible use.

AI systems are capable of creating novel and often sophisticated content, ranging from images and text to music, and more, which presents a unique set of issues for IP protection. One of the primary challenges lies in defining ownership. Traditional IP protection regimes attribute inventorship or authorship to human creators. But with AI generating creative outputs autonomously, questions arise regarding ownership and attribution of AI-generated works.

One view is that the AI developer or the entity that trained the AI should hold the IP rights, while others think that the AI itself should be the IP owner. IP laws are evolving to address these issues, while still emphasising the role of human creators in the AI process. Continued monitoring and input from stakeholders will be critical in helping to develop a definitive legal framework to address this conundrum.

Adding to the challenges is the push to minimise algorithmic biases. AI models trained on biased datasets can perpetuate and even amplify existing social inequalities. To mitigate this risk, researchers and policymakers are advocating for transparent and accountable AI development processes. By ensuring diversity and equity exist in training data and incorporating fairness metrics, AI developers can reduce the likelihood of biased outputs.

In terms of IP protection, minimising algorithmic biases entails not only safeguarding the rights of creators but also fostering equitable access to AI technologies. Open access initiatives and collaborative research efforts can promote knowledge sharing and innovation while also providing equitable access to AI tools. Additionally, licensing frameworks that encourage responsible usage and mitigate potential harms can help achieve a balance between IP rights and societal needs.

Despite the evolving landscape around AI, what is clear is the need to have a multifaceted approach to IP protection that balances the interests of creators, users, and society at large. By addressing ownership ambiguities and promoting fairness and transparency in AI development, stakeholders can harness the full potential of generative AI while mitigating potential risks and ensuring equitable access to its benefits.

2. Convergence of AR/VR and AI may result in ‘AR/VR on steroids’

The fusion of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies with AI unlocks a new era of customisation and promises enhanced immersive experiences, blurring the lines between the digital and physical worlds.

We expect to see further refining and personalising of AR/VR to redefine gaming, education, and healthcare, along with other various industrial applications.

As AR, VR, and AI converge, the potential for innovation and creativity soars, but so do the challenges surrounding IP protection and enforcement. In the realm of patent protection, inventors are racing to secure patents on their novel algorithms, hardware designs, and software implementations that enable AR/VR/AI integration. This patent “gold rush” is likely to continue well beyond 2024, as AR/VR/AI fusion is still a nascent industry with technological breakthroughs occurring every day.

Trade secrets and copyright will also continue to play a vital role in protecting creative works in AR/VR/AI environments. From virtual worlds and characters to immersive narratives and interactive experiences, creators rely on copyright to safeguard their original content.

This includes the code powering AI behaviours, the design of virtual environments, and the storyline that drives user engagement. Similarly, trade secrets protect the investment in developing proprietary algorithms, data processing techniques, and AI models, which help developers maintain market advantage.

However, despite the range of IP protections utilised, IP infringement remains a concern. The interconnected nature of AR, VR, and AI can make it challenging to monitor and enforce IP rights effectively. From reverse engineering patented technologies to unauthorised reproduction of copyrighted content, the risks are numerous.

In response, stakeholders must adopt comprehensive IP strategies encompassing multiple IP protection regimes, including patent filings, copyright registrations, trade secret protection measures, and proactive enforcement efforts. Collaboration between industry players, policymakers, and legal experts is also essential to establish robust frameworks that balance innovation incentives with IP rights enforcement.

3. EV and battery companies charge into a greener future

With new science and technologies in battery efficiency, energy density, and sustainability, the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) continues to rise. Decreasing prices for battery metals can help make EVs more competitive with traditional vehicles. AI may provide new opportunities for optimising EV performance and help solve challenges in battery development, reliability, and safety.

As the world pivots towards sustainable transportation solutions, the development and protection of IP rights play a key role in shaping the landscape of electric mobility. Battery systems, electric motors, software, and autonomous driving are all valuable assets to both auto manufacturers and technology companies, and they need to be protected.

One of the primary areas of IP activity in the EV sector revolves around battery technology, and lithium-ion batteries, in particular. Companies invest heavily in R&D to enhance battery performance, safety, and cost-effectiveness, often filing patents to protect their advancements. Consequently, the competitive landscape is shaped by cross-licensing agreements, litigation over patent infringement, and strategic partnerships aimed at accessing crucial technologies.

Similarly, software, including embedded systems and machine learning algorithms, is another area in EV development that is ripe for IP. But, the convergence of EVs with various emerging technologies, including AI, can complicate the IP landscape.

As vehicles become more connected and autonomous, issues related to data privacy, cybersecurity, and algorithmic transparency come to the forefront, prompting discussions around regulatory frameworks and ethical considerations.

Once again, a holistic approach to IP protection is needed, with continuous monitoring of new developments in order to ensure end-to-end protection of intellectual assets.

4. ‘Rosie the robot’ is closer than you think

With advancements in machine learning algorithms, sensor technologies, and the integration of AI, the intelligence and adaptability of robots continue to grow. Large language models (LLMs) will likely encourage effective human-robot collaboration, and even non-technical users will find it easy to employ robotics to accomplish a task.

Continued innovations in robotics will further enhance machine learning, making decisions, and working in unison with people. It is no longer limited to monotonous activities and repetitive tasks.

In the context of robotics, IP encompasses a broad spectrum of innovations ranging from hardware designs and mechanical components to software algorithms and AI systems. This R&D-intensive area relies on patents, trademarks, and copyrights to safeguard innovations and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

However, the collaborative nature of robotics development, involving interdisciplinary teams and open-source communities, complicates IP issues, as contributors may have conflicting interests regarding ownership and licensing agreements.

In response, lawmakers, policymakers, and industry stakeholders are exploring new frameworks and strategies to address IP issues in robotics. This is an area worth watching closely in order to fully protect and exploit IP assets in the rapidly developing robotics industry.

5. Unified defence in against cyber attacks

Digital threats are expected to only increase in 2024, including more sophisticated AI-powered attacks. As the international battle against hackers wages on, threat detection, response, and mitigation will play a crucial role in staying ahead of rapidly evolving cyber-attacks.

As risks to national security and economic growth, there should be increased collaboration between industries and governments to establish standardised cybersecurity frameworks to protect data and privacy.

While IP and cybersecurity are distinct concepts, they often intersect, especially in the context of protecting proprietary information and technological advancements in an increasingly digital world. IP is a significant investment for any business, and the loss or theft of IP can have severe consequences on the success of that business.

Cybercriminals often target valuable IP through hacking, phishing, or insider threats. Organisations must implement robust cybersecurity measures, such as digital rights management (DRM) systems and encryption, to safeguard their IP assets from unauthorised access or theft.

Welcome to tomorrow

In the race to innovate, defend, and adapt, IP professionals must be vigilant in monitoring emerging technology trends to ensure they are developing IP strategies that will stand the test of time. Navigating this terrain requires a deep understanding of the interplay between technological advancements, creative expression, and legal protections to foster a thriving ecosystem of innovation.

In summary, the evolving landscape of emerging technologies requires a proactive and adaptive approach to IP strategy, integrating legal, technological, and business considerations to safeguard innovation and foster responsible use of IP assets.

Chinh Pham is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig and co-chair of the firm’s Venture Capital and Emerging Technology Practice.

Andrew (AJ) Tibbetts is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig and a member of the firm’s AI practice.

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